Sailing the Seas

Second, the camp utilizes a unique system of pocket books, called rank manuals. The manuals are color-coded blue and green — green for land activities and blue for seamanship (sailing and motor boating).

Campers carry them around and have each successfully completed activity check-marked by staff that leads the activity. As they progress through a certain activity they attain higher ranks.

It’s a neat dual system that plays off the emphasis on independence while giving the staff a benchmark for where the campers are in their camp experience.

“The formula has not changed. I was a camper back in the ’70s, and I stepped back in and it felt very familiar,” says Frantz. “The ranks are constantly updated and revised, just as we are looking at best practices of teaching and skill development.”

The camp’s name gives away its emphasis — boating. However, it has a diverse “land” program, including soccer, basketball, baseball, golf, tennis, archery, riflery, canoeing, swimming, diving and environmental education. Though seamanship is emphasized, land-based programming does not play second fiddle.

After all, there are a number of campers who opt to specialize in a land activity. The camp even has a specialty golf program — taught by a pro who comes from Raleigh, N.C. — and a scuba program.

Still, the camp is famous for its boating, and for good reason. It’s located on North Carolina’s Neuse River, just inland from the Outer Banks. It’s a perfect sailing ground for all types of vessels, and especially conducive to teaching. It’s protected, yet close to the wide, wild waters of the Atlantic.

There are 84 sailboats and 43 motor boats in Sea Gull’s program and 73 sailboats and 32 motor boats in Seafarer’s, which range from small and simple sailboats to large and complex vessels. The camps share Joy Boy II — a big power boat/head boat accommodating 125 passengers — and a Morgan 41′ named Integrity.

There is the potential to have all the boats on the river at one time, says Frantz, so safeguarding the campers while the fleet is out is the camp’s number-one priority.

“We have three tenders, a sailing patrol boat and two or three motor-boating patrol boats out on the water, and a visible flag system that tells campers if they need to stay close, come in, or if a storm’s approaching,” says Frantz. “On the sea we have a thousand foot pier with a main tower on the pier. The sailing master and motor boating captain are up there with binoculars and radio contact with patrol boats on the river. They have an emergency telephone and an up-to-date, real-time radar system.

With the use of a laptop on the tower, we’re able to track storms. The system even tells us when storms are going to arrive.”

Frantz says the camp is constantly evaluating and tweaking its emergency response procedures and has a legal/medical committee with the Raleigh YMCA to help (the camp is part of an association of YMCAs, called the YMCA of the Triangle Inc.).

Frantz credits the ACA’s accreditation process with helping the camp take an objective view of its risk management, leading to better practices.


Another important emphasis is the appreciation of nature and the outdoors. The camp is situated on an ideal piece of real estate, fronted by the Neuse and backed by forest.

Plans are in the works for a year-round office, an adventure center and a creative and performing arts center for the girls’ camp. Cabin renovation is being completed and the waste-water treatment plant and underground wiring has been renovated.

When the camp decided to renovate the girls’ dining hall it made a conscious decision not to air-condition it. Instead, it’s screened in and very open. Cille says air conditioning tends to block your connection to nature.

“Part of the gift we received from Becket (the camp in the Berkshires that Lloyd directed) is being able to help children realize the value of the natural environment. That’s driven our long-range site plan,” Cille says. She adds that long-range planning can’t happen without collaboration between the camp, volunteers associated with the camp through all of its eras and its plan architect, Schmidt, Copeland, Parker, Stevens.

Again, listening is the key.

As the camp moves into its long-range plans, it’s also creating a slightly different feel for the girls’ camp. The two camps are, by both necessity and tradition, very similar. But subtle differences exist that require different approaches and programming strategies.

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